Melbourne is one of the best cities in Australia to visit. It’s embrace of the arts can be seen in its streets, buildings and many performing arts centers and museums. It’s probably the most welcoming of all the Australian capital cities to tourists. Melbourne has a good public transport network, but unlike Sydney and Brisbane, there is no train that can take you from Melbourne Airport to the city of Melbourne. If you are a visitor, let me tell you as a local the most convenient way from the airport to the city.
Arriving in Melbourne
When you arrive in Melbourne Airport, you will realize that Melbourne Airport is about 30 kms by car from the city. Melbourne Airport is located in the northwest suburb of Tullamarine. Melbourne also has a second international airport at Avalon, but this airport is even further away and services less international flights, but at least has similar options to Melbourne Airport such as Skybus.
If you are an international arrival, you will need to ensure you complete your arrival card on landing. You will need to identify and declare any items in your luggage that may be subject to Australia’s pretty strict quarantine and biosecurity laws. These things include fresh fruits, animal products, plants, etc. It is also better to declare these items and have them examined and/or binned, then to risk being issued with a hefty fine.
Once you have passed customs, you are pretty much home free.
If you are a visitor and aren’t familiar with the city, you will be disappointed by the lack of a airport train station. But don’t fret if you arrive on or after 2029, the state government under Daniel Andrews has already commenced the construction of the airport line. For now, it will eventually be here.
Options from Melbourne Airport to the city
Here are your options to getting to the city if you are a visitor:
- Taxi or Uber
- Car Hire
No matter which of the three options you choose, they all take the same road to the city. The Skybus has a priority lane on some of the roads, but not all. If you are travelling during the early morning or evening peak hour, Melbourne’s roads can get incredibly busy, so no matter which option you choose there is no getting around it.
The Skybus is the cheapest of the three options. It costs $15 for a one way ticket per person and $28 for a return ticket. You can purchase the ticket at Melbourne Airport. The shuttle bus will take you straight to Southern Cross Station (which is the largest train station in Melbourne) and from there, it can also take you to some hotels. Southern Cross Station is one of the five stations that form part of Melbourne’s city loop train line. Flinders Street Station is the next station down from Southern Cross Station, which you can get to by taking the train with a Myki card or taking a ride on a tram, which is free to travel within the city’s boundary. Southern Cross Station would be the ideal stop if you are staying at any of the following hotels, Pan Pacific, Crown, Crowne Plaza and InterContinental.
Taxi and Uber have their own rank. It can cost anywhere between $40 to $70 for a ride from Melbourne Airport to the city for a taxi ride. It is only slightly cheaper with Uber. I tend to avoid the taxi, because the fares they charge are too expensive, especially at night, and, for me, sitting in peak hour traffic is like giving your driver a blank check.
Lastly, you can hire a car at the airport. This is going to be the most expensive and requires that you have the relevant licenses to drive. You will have to pay for the car hire with any extras such as insurance or car seat for your baby, petrol, tollways and carparking. This option will allow you to travel directly to any place you want. Some hotels offer carparking on site or a valet parking service, but parking on the street is both expensive and limited to only a couple of hours during the day.
If you have friends and family in the city, you can also be picked up at the designated pickup locations just outside the main terminals.
There are also several companies that run specialty shuttle buses that can take you from the airport to your chosen destination, but they range in price from $30 to $80.
There are also the options to travel to the nearest train station or to walk, but these are not worth the effort unless you are short on money and have plenty of time.
Melbourne’s public transport system is trains, buses and trams
Melbourne’s public transport includes trains, buses and trams (or streetcars). All modes are covered by one public transport card called Myki. Myki has an initial cost of $6 and the way fares work is that you can ride for about 2 hours on any mode for a cheaper 2 hour fare at $4.50 or a daily higher fare at $9.
The train system is a centralized train system where all train lines connect into the city, so you can pretty much travel to and back from the city in most directions. (Though most of the train lines point heavily eastwards.)
Melbourne has the largest tram network in the world. It is larger on the map than Toronto’s network, but uses more types of trams and is not known for its punctuality. The trams to use when traveling within the city’s ‘Free Tram Zone’. The ‘Free Tram Zone’ extends to Docklands (which is technically outside the CBD given its location).
Buses play a role in this city and, like trams, are not punctual. They play a necessary role in covering routes not covered by either trains and teams.
While Melbourne’s public transport system isn’t award winning, it is slowly getting better. There are now more electronic signage showing how far away the next train, tram or bus is and the infrastructure has been slowly and incrementally improved.
With the current state government, it is good to see that there is a real focus on improving Melbourne’s aging infrastructure. At the same time, the state government is delivering its vision for Melbourne’s future, including things like the Rail Crossing Removals, Melbourne Metro Line (another underground metro through Melbourne’s CBD), Airport Line, Train Line Extensions to Mernda and the Suburban Rail Loop. Melbourne’s public transport future is looking good.
Melbourne Airport is located to the northwest of the city in the suburb of Tullamarine.
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